My Brilliant Culinary Career

I’ve been AWOL for five months now.  My sincerest apologies to all who have tried to reach me without success.  The reason is singular – my complete immersion in Culinary School.

The good news:  my bees are flourishing!!  They’ve never been healthier!!  I’m not sure whether it’s because of the idyllic summer we’ve had in Ohio or the fact that I’ve left them alone to do their own bee thing.  Maybe it’s a combination of both. In any event, they’re in the best possible shape to enter the winter season.

The bad news:  my garden is a mess!  It’s amazing how quickly things will descend into rack and ruin if neglected for even a short period of time.  My neighbors have been incredibly tolerant and understanding.  Perhaps they understand that it’s more painful for me than it is for them!

I’ll give you a flavor of what the past months have been like for me. Then I’ll go back to posting about beekeeping, gardening and cooking with honey.  With some culinary anecdotes of course!

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As some of you may know, I’ve been a corporate lawyer for many years.  About five years ago, I added “writer” and “consultant” to my list of job titles.

In 2012 I added “blogger” to my list.  So how did I end up as “Culinary Student”?

Probably because the best way to motivate me is to tell me I can’t do something.  I’ve always been that way.  It’s the reason I became a lawyer.

There were other factors too. I’ve always loved to cook.  I come from a family of great cooks, both self-taught and professionally trained.  I’m one of those people who owns hundreds of cookbooks and reads them for fun.

And then my best friend died unexpectedly in April.  I was devastated. I was desperate to find something to get myself out of my head and distract me from my grief.

In any event, shortly before the summer semester started in May, I found myself enrolling in Culinary School.

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In truth, I didn’t know whether I just wanted to take a few classes or do something more.  I figured taking cooking classes would be fun, keep me busy, and would help me with my writing.  Beyond that, I was clueless.

It was apparent to my instructors that I hadn’t thought the whole Culinary School thing through. I had no idea what school was like. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my training.

The Administration tactfully suggested that I might not be willing or able to handle the six hour cooking labs and other requirements of the program.  That’s when my motivation kicked in.  I immediately became sure I wanted to pursue a Culinary Arts Degree.  Hey, I might even get a Pastry Arts Degree while I was at it!

The first three weeks of school took their physical toll on me, big time.  I was in good shape when I started, but I wasn’t used to being on my feet cooking for five or six hours at a pop.  I hurt all over.  I started carrying a plastic baggie full of Advil around in the pocket of my chefs’ pants.

And then there was my age. I was older than everyone, including my instructors.  My fellow students avoided me, and I was frequently mistaken for a faculty member.

I hated it.

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Then, around week four, something happened.  I got used to being on my feet for so long. I realized I was really good at professional level cooking.  I stopped caring what people thought of me.  I looked forward to my classes.  I began to think the whole Culinary School thing might work out for me after all!

One thing I never doubted was what type of food I wanted to cook.  I wanted to prepare glorious, adventurous food made from fresh local and seasonal ingredients.  That meant working at an independently owned, fine dining restaurant.

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In Cincinnati, there are many exciting new fine dining restaurants in the Over the Rhine area downtown.  In June, I was lucky to find an apprentice position in one of them.  Thus began my true journey…

That’s enough for tonight, I think.  I hope I’ve left you anxious to hear more!!

I’ve missed you all, and hope you’ve missed me a little too.

More tomorrow….



The Five Plants Bees Love Best

This is a very popular post and many of you have requested seeds this year. I’ve restocked and will be happy to fill any and all orders!!

Romancing the Bee

Okay, I’ve accepted that all of you aren’t going to become beekeepers, despite my best efforts to persuade you to don a beesuit and pick up a smoker and a hive tool.

Some of you are allergic.  Some of you just can’t understand how I can enjoy playing with critters that sometimes sting me. Beekeeping isn’t  for everyone, and that’s okay.

So is there anything you can do to help save the bees? Absolutely!

As most of you know, bees collect nectar and pollen from plants for food. They make honey from the nectar. Pollen is their sole protein source (honey bees are vegetarians) and they use it to make food for their young.

Some plants have more nectar and pollen than others. According to  Dr. Vetaley Stashenko, an apiculturist, naturopath and apitherapist, the five top plants to support the honeybees with nectar and pollen throughout the season are Borage…

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Telling The Bees

This is an earlier post which gives some background on the tradition of “telling the bees.”

Until the late 19th century, beekeeping was almost exclusively a family affair.  It was common for households to keep at least two or three hives, and bees were considered valuable members of the family.

It was a common belief that bees could understand what was said and done around them, and they were often treated as having human emotions. As a result, families were careful to inform the bees of important  family events such as marriages, births and deaths. This custom became known as  “telling the bees.”

“Telling the bees” was done in various ways,  including tapping the hive with a key, whispering the news to the bees, and leaving an appropriate gift – a piece of wedding cake or some other refreshment – at the entrance of the hive. It was also customary to drape the hives with black crepe or wool.

It was feared that if the bees were not properly informed, they would die or desert the family. This custom was so prevalent that it was celebrated in 19th century literature and art.

British artist Charles Napier Hemy painted the poignant Telling The Bees.

Telling the Bees

American Transcendentalist poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem of the same name.

Telling The Bees

Here is the place; right over the hill
Runs the path I took;
You can see the gap in the old wall still,
And the stepping-stones in the shallow brook.

There is the house, with the gate red-barred,
And the poplars tall;
And the barn’s brown length, and the cattle-yard,
And the white horns tossing above the wall.

There are the beehives ranged in the sun;
And down by the brink
Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o’errun,
Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink.

A year has gone, as the tortoise goes,
Heavy and slow;
And the same rose blows, and the same sun glows,
And the same brook sings of a year ago.

There ‘s the same sweet clover-smell in the breeze;
And the June sun warm
Tangles his wings of fire in the trees,
Setting, as then, over Fernside farm.

I mind me how with a lover’s care
From my Sunday coat
I brushed off the burrs, and smoothed my hair,
And cooled at the brookside my brow and throat.

Since we parted, a month had passed,–
To love, a year;
Down through the beeches I looked at last
On the little red gate and the well-sweep near.

I can see it all now,–the slantwise rain
Of light through the leaves,
The sundown’s blaze on her window-pane,
The bloom of her roses under the eaves.

Just the same as a month before,–
The house and the trees,
The barn’s brown gable, the vine by the door,–
Nothing changed but the hives of bees.

Before them, under the garden wall,
Forward and back,
Went drearily singing the chore-girl small,
Draping each hive with a shred of black.

Trembling, I listened: the summer sun
Had the chill of snow;
For I knew she was telling the bees of one
Gone on the journey we all must go!

Then I said to myself, “My Mary weeps
For the dead to-day:
Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps
The fret and the pain of his age away.”

But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill,
With his cane to his chin,
The old man sat; and the chore-girl still
Sung to the bees stealing out and in.

And the song she was singing ever since
In my ear sounds on:–
“Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
Mistress Mary is dead and gone!”

Many modern beekeepers will understand their ancestors’ desire to treat their winged charges with love and respect.  I know I’ve started talking to my bees. They seem to like it.


Cooking With Honey – Honeycomb Pull Apart Cake

Another Honey Cake Recipe!!

Honeycomb Pan available for purchase from Romancing the Bee for $45 plus shipping and handling.

Romancing the Bee

Reblogged from Chronicles of a Beekeeper Wife

Honeycomb Pull Apart Cake

Honeycomb cake image

Do you have some special people coming over, a birthday celebration,or maybe you are going to your annual beekeepers’ potluck? You’ll do no wrong by serving this conversational piece. It is easy to make and fun to serve. The honey lemon glaze is especially tasty, and on a hot summer day, I suggest serving alongside a scoop of lemon sorbet or Italian ice. Either way, serving up this honeycomb cake is going to be a hit at your next gathering!

You’ll need to purchase this Honeycomb novelty pan. Itis made by Nordic Ware (very high quality heavy cast aluminum construction). Mine was purchased onsite at the King Arthur Flour Bake Store in Norwich, VT; however, I don’t see it in their online store. The good news is that Williams-Sonoma and Amazon currently sell it.

honeycomb cake pan image

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Welcome To Spring!

Romancing the Bee

Welcome to the first day of spring!


The vernal equinox occurred this morning (in case you felt something unusual happening…)

It’s the moment when the earth’s axis is not turned toward the sun (summer, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), or away from it (winter), but is aligned with the center of the sun.


The word equinox comes from Latin: aequus means equal, level, or calm; nox means night, or darkness. The equinox, in spring or fall, is a time when the day and night are as close to equal as they ever are, and when the hours of night are exactly equal for people living equidistant from the equator either north or south.

It also marks the date when gardeners begin their work for the growing season. Margaret Atwood wrote:

“Gardening is not a rational act. What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth…

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Easy Cassoulet With Honey


It’s snowing in Cincinnati and getting colder by the minute. When the weather’s like this, all I want is some hearty cassoulet!  If I can’t wait until tomorrow to have it, this is the recipe I use. It’s SO good!

Serves 6


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 onion, thinly sliced

3 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 parsnips, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 tomato, chopped, or one 8-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped

3 15-ounce cans of great Northern, cannellini, or navy beans, drained and rinsed

5 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons salted butter, melted


In a Dutch oven (a heavy pot, usually made of cast iron, that you can use on the stovetop and in the oven), heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the sausage until well browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Remove and drain on paper towels; set aside.

Pour out the excess oil from the Dutch oven. Add the chicken broth, vegetables, beans, thyme, honey, salt, pepper, a third of the garlic, and the sausage and return to heat. Mix well, scraping up any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour, until thickened and the vegetables are tender.

Heat oven to 400° F. In a bowl, combine the bread-crumbs, parsley, butter, and remaining garlic. Sprinkle evenly over the cassoulet and place in the oven. Bake, uncovered, until the crust is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Salted Honey and Chocolate Bark

Awesome Recipe!!

Seattle Foodshed

We love the complex flavors of this bark recipe from Bon Appetit: the earthiness of the cacao nibs and coffee + the sweetness of the cherries and chocolate + the saltiness of the crumbled saltines and sea salt flakes. The flavors may be complex, but making these cookies is easy.

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The Winter Solstice And The Bees

Winter cluster!!

Romancing the Bee


The Winter Solstice is the real beginning of the cycle of the New Year.

It marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest.

The Solstice officially arrived at the same instant for all of us on Earth – 11:12 UTC – but our clocks say different times due to varying time zones.

This year the Winter Solstice in Cincinnati happened this morning at 6:12 a.m. EST.

hive in winter

After the Winter Solstice the days gradually get longer until spring season arrives. It’s  important to honey bees and how they manage their hive throughout the winter.

Within the darkness of the hive, unable to see that the light lasts a bit longer each day, the Queen Bee senses that the Solstice has arrived. The Winter Solstice is one of the first signs to her that it is time to take up…

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Holidays With Honey – The Winter Solstice Cocktail


Romancing the Bee


The pomegranate has been used throughout history and in almost every religion as a symbol of humanity’s most fundamental beliefs and desires, including life and death, rebirth and eternal life, fertility and marriage, abundance and prosperity. Almost every aspect of the pomegranate has come to symbolize something . . . its shape, color, seeds, juice.

It’s very fitting that the Winter Solstice cocktail should feature pomegranate juice.


2 oz vodka

3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

1/2 oz pomegranate juice

1 oz honey

Orange wedge


Add vodka, lemon juice, pomegranate juice, and honey to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a short or highball glass with ice. Garnish with an orange wedge. Drink up and repeat!

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Ghost Stories For Christmas, Part III

I love this series…

Romancing the Bee


Prior to the 19th century, the telling of ghost stories at Yuletide was largely an oral tradition. However, the Victorian Era brought industrial advances that made printing cheaper than ever before,  and the pastime of reading, once the preserve of the monied classes, boomed across all sectors of society. The Victorians were obsessed with ghosts and spiritualism, and there was a huge flowering of supernatural fiction during that era.

Periodicals, magazines, penny-dreadfuls and annuals published ghost stories throughout the year, but the form reached its peak at Christmastime.  Holiday gatherings provided the perfect audience at such a special time, plus supernatural tales appealed to both the young and the old.

Most of the famous literary names from the period produced such stories in addition to those they’re better known for – writers such as Rudyard Kipling (The Jungle Book), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Elizabeth Gaskell (

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